An Instagram travel star exposed the secret 'Instagram mafia' people use to inflate their numbers and earn money

From the look of Sara Melotti's Instagram account, you'd think her wanderings through lush fields, scenic roads, and quaint shoreside towns around the world are driven purely by wanderlust and a thirst for adventure. But beneath the pristine sunsets and artsy lens flares, a toxic culture obsessed with numbers, gimmicks, and fame has been simmering for too long.

Melotti has finally had enough of the games and decided to come clean about the truth behind glamorous Instagram travel accounts — including her own.

"I was just feeling really sick," she told INSIDER. "I’m ashamed of everything I’ve done in the last six months."

Instagram has become a numbers game.

Instagram used to show posts chronologically, which provided an even playing field. Last year, they switched to an algorithm-based feed, prioritizing photos that users would be most likely to engage with. Many influencers saw their numbers dip because Instagram wasn't showing all of their content to all of their followers anymore.

Followers, likes, and comments are a sort of currency for Instagram travel stars who sustain their nomadic lifestyles by working with brands. Airlines will offer free trips, hotels will provide free accommodation, and camera companies will supply them with free gear in exchange for promotional posts — but influencers need a big enough audience for that to happen.

As a result, Melotti feels Instagram has become more about quantity over quality.

"Today, everybody wants to see your social media numbers without looking at your work first," she said....more